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Russia Bans British, German NGOs From Troubled Region Near Chechnya

Agence France Presse

January 16, 2006

Russia late Monday banned a British and a German humanitarian non-governmental organizations from operating in the troubled North Caucasus republic of Ingushetya bordering war-torn Chechnya, the Russian general prosecutor's office said on its website.

A court in Ingushetya, at the request of the local prosecutor's office, banned Britain's Centre for Peacemaking and Communisty Development (CPCD) and Germany's HELP - Hilfe zur Selbsthilfe (Help for Self-Help).

"The cause of the ban was the lack of authorization for the activities" of those NGOs, the website of the general prosecutor's office said.

The prosecutor's office also asked the court to ban the activities in Ingushetia of US NGO the International Medical Corps but the case was still being investigated, the website said.

The North Caucasus region is increasingly tense as violence, previously confined to Russia's bloody decade-old war against separatist forces in Chechnya, spreads throughout the impoverished, mountainous and mostly Muslim region.

Under a new law recently passed by parliament, but yet to be signed by President Vladimir Putin, NGOs in Russia can be shut down if they threaten the country's "sovereignty, independence, territorial integrity, national unity and originality, cultural heritage and national interests."

Foreign NGOs will have to notify the federal registration service of their existence within six months and the registration service will then rule on their legality.

Another requirement under the law will be to report every foreign donation, a measure that could overwhelm small organisations in red tape, according to critics.

Critics in Russia and abroad fear the law will rein in one of the last independent sectors in Russia, where media, parliament and big business are seen as increasingly under Kremlin control.

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